Farm worker heat-related fatality—Oregon
Oregon Case Report: 21OR002
Release Date: September 27, 2023
The following report is the product of our Cooperative State partner and is presented here in its original unedited form from the state. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the individual Cooperative State partner and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
At approximately 3:38 pm on June 26, 2021, a 38-year-old Hispanic farm labor worker was found unresponsive in the field where he was working. He was part of a five-person work crew installing irrigation lines at an Oregon nursery. The crew had been working on the site since 5 am that morning. They took a morning break at 10 am and a lunch break at noon. When it was time for the afternoon break at 3 pm, the employee did not report back to the van with the other employees. They tried calling his phone, but he had left it in the work passenger van. The crew notified the supervisor about the missing employee. Other work crew employees went into the field to look for the missing farm worker and found him unconscious and face down where he had been working. The other work crew members moved him to a shaded area nearby. Emergency response was called and arrived at the scene in approximately 10 minutes.
Key contributing factors identified in the investigation include:
- Environmental heat exposure and lack of acclimatization
- Failure to implement a work/rest schedule based on heat exposure
- Lack of adequate shaded areas and consumption of water
- Inadequate communication with a supervisor or electronic tracking of heat stress symptoms
- Lack of training on the hazards of heat exposure
Oregon FACE investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences, employers should:
- Provide an acclimatization schedule for new employees and appropriate work/rest schedule based on type of work and clothing worn when employees are exposed to environmental heat.
- Provide adequate access to shade and water when exposed to outdoor environmental heat.
- Implement communication methods, buddy system, or electronic tracking of heat stress.
- Train supervisors and employees on the dangers of heat stress and how to recognize symptoms.